Explain and evaluate participation by the United States government in international organizations.

Topics on the Page
  • The United Nations
    • Historical Overview of the League of Nations
  • The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund
  • NATO

Go here for a list of International Organization Membership of the United States

The United Nations

external image UN_General_Assembly.jpg

rotating gif.gifFor more on the formation of the United Nations, see World History WHII.29

The UN at a Glance from the United Nations website provides an overview of the organization.

Country at a Glance provides an overview of all UN member states.


Biography for Antonio Guterres, current Secretary-General of the United Nations

Biography for Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Click here for his homepage.

UN Security Council Profile from the BBC

external image Red_apple.jpg The United Nations and Reform: Background, Activities and Critical Analysis

Read about the day the US Senate approved US participation in the UN here
Displaced women and children in Mali, 2012
Displaced women and children in Mali, 2012


  • Against All Odds from the United Nations Regional Information Center focuses on problems facing refugees.


The United Nations was formed was on October 24, 1945, to replace the League of Nations which had failed to prevent World War II.

The United Nations is a global organization of sovereign States (not dependent upon, or subject to, another power) which voluntarily join the UN to work for world peace and security.

The United Nations is a forum for nearly all the nations of the world and its peacekeepers play a central role in reducing international tensions and conflicts.
  • The UN also addresses environmental, social, economic, and humanitarian issues.
    • The UN has played a major role in helping and protecting refugees, promoting human rights, responding to natural disasters, expanding literacy and has helped to wipe out many diseases.

For an overview, see "Finding the Hidden UN," Brian Urquhart, The New York Review of Books, May 27, 2010 (pp. 26-28). Key points from his article include:
  • "At its founding, the United Nations was widely perceived by the public as a fundamentally idealistic institution that would change the way nations behaved." Yet, the three most powerful forming nations—the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union—did not have that type of change in mind. Rather, the UN was in the words of historian C. K. Webster, "an Alliance of the Great Powers embedded in a universal organization."
    • "Starting in the 1950s, the organization improvised a new method, peacekeeping operations, to contain brush fire conflicts that might ignite an East-West confrontation, particularly in the Middle East."
      • "The UN was a catalyst for decolonization, a process that went much faster than its founders had anticipated. . . . Economic and social development became the predominant task of the UN and its specialized agencies and programs—World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, and UNICEF among them—that make up the so-called 'UN system'."

Click here for an overview of the role the United States played in the founding of the United Nations from the U.S. State Department.

Click here for an overview geared toward children.

book.pngSee also What's Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It, Thomas G. Weiss (Polity, 2008).

Multimedia.png The United Nations began with 51 member states and an annual budget of $19m. Seventy years on the UN has 193 member nations and spends $40bn a year. How did the UN get so big? And – as the UN marks its 70th birthday – has it stayed true to its founding principles of spreading human rights, social progress and upholding international justice? See this short video to learn more.

primary_sources.PNGClick here to view a 1940s short animated film about the United Nations titled "Another Chance."

Multimedia.png Click here to view an overview video about how the United Nations works from RMIT University.

The Image below shows the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations begins on September 25, 2007. According to tradition since the 1970's, a Brazilian gives the inaugural speech. Photo byMarcello Casal, Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency
external image UN_62nd_General_Assembly.jpg

Wikipedia offers a brief overview of the role of the United States in the formation of the United Nations. Note the controversy around the neutrality of the article.

Here are official sites on America's relationship to the United Nations:
The United States Mission to the United Nations

Bureau of International Organizational Affairs

Read more: http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/E-N/International-Organization-Democratic-constitutionalism-versus-international-commitments.html#ixzz0mDfjvboU

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.31.08 AM.pngClick here for lesson plans about the United Nations offered by the UN website.

See the website of the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations more teaching resources and materials.

Here's a quiz to review material on the United Nations.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 12.56.56 PM.pngThe United Nations has made strides in LGBT equality, detailed on their 'Free & Equal' campaign page.
  • Another page from the United Nations Human Rights website, titled "Speak Up Stop Discrimination", aims to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Also be sure to read an article from msnbc.com detailing the UN's passing of a resolution on behalf of international LGBT citizens here.

The League of Nations

For more information on the League of Nations see WHII 14

Preceding the formation of the United Nations on January 1, 1942 , was the attempt to form the League of Nations.
President Woodrow Wilson attempted to engage the United States into a dialogue with other Nations through the League of Nations. There was much opposition to his desires underscoring the dilemma of a democratic government.
Multimedia.pngHere is a photo link and essay on key facts.
primary_sources.PNGHere is a speech made by Woodrow Wilson to appeal to the people of the United States.

Here is a brief history of the League of Nations

Click here for a lesson plan on the League of Nations.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund

external image 320_worldbank-logo.jpg
In July 1944, as World War II was still being fought, delegates from the Allied Nations met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to discuss how best to rebuild the global economy.
  • Concerned with preventing another Great Depression and creating a more stable global economy in the wake of the devastating war, the delegates created the World Bank and IMF, both of which officially came into existence in December 1945.
    • The stated goal of the World Bank is to fight poverty around the globe.
  • The stated goal of the IMF is to promote economic cooperation and financial stability around the globe.
    • Both are headquartered in Washington, D.C. and the United States plays a very important role in both of them.
      • Ten of the eleven World Bank Presidents have been American, and the United States has nearly 17% of the votes in the 187-member IMF.

Read about US involvement in the World Bank here

Female_Rose.png The World Bank states that they are working to improve the lives of women and girls in the developing world. Click here to read their view of how they are "Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity" and here to see all of the statistics in their gender data site.

lesson_plan_icon.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on the World Bank and IMF

Female_Rose.pngCaroline Anstey is current Managing Director of the World Bank.

Criticism of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund
Sign held during a march to protest the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Some people and organizations are critical of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, such as in this description from Global Exchange, an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world.

"The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were created in 1944 at a conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, and are now based in Washington, DC. The IMF was originally designed to promote international economic cooperation and provide its member countries with short-term loans so they could trade with other countries (achieve a balance of payments). Since the debt crisis of the 1980's, the IMF has assumed the role of bailing out countries during financial crises (caused in large part by currency speculation in the global casino economy) with emergency loan packages tied to certain conditions, often referred to as structural adjustment policies (SAPs). The IMF now acts like a global loan shark, exerting enormous leverage over the economies of more than 60 countries. These countries have to follow the IMF's policies to get loans, international assistance, and even debt relief. Thus, the IMF decides how much debtor countries can spend on education, healthcare, and environmental protection."

Click here to read Global Exchange's Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the World Bank.

For another critical view, you can visit the Bretton Woods Project.

Multimedia.pngView the IMF's YouTube channel here

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
- Created in 1949, NATO was the United States system of allies countering Soviet armies in central and eastern Europe
US government page on NATO
A short history of NATO
Women of NATO - the Foreign Policy Project podcasts with prominent women within NATO
Trump and NATO - Foreignpolicy.com article on Trump's administration and its change of relations towards NATO compared to previous presidential administration
LGBTQ and NATO - an article on LGBTQ troops and their service under the NATO banner

[1] http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/E-N/International-Organization-Democratic-constitutionalism-versus-international-commitments.html
accessed April 26, 2010